Academy Board Eyes More Changes to Boost Oscar Diversity

Academy board eyes further changes to
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

The Academy board of directors will gather March 15 in their first meeting since the Feb. 28 Oscarcast. But don’t expect any decisions on changing the ceremonies or Oscar rules (e.g., the proposed return to 10 best pics) until summer. However, you can expect more decisions on inclusion/diversity next week — and in the months to come.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences never discloses its board agenda in advance. But when AMPAS made changes in voting rights on Jan. 21, the org said more changes are forthcoming. One or two seem likely to pass next week, with the third requiring a few months.

In the first move that had been announced, AMPAS will restructure the board by adding three governors “in order to immediately increase diversity on the board.” There are currently 51 governors; the new trio will be nominated by president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and are subject to board approval, then serve a three-year term.

In the second move, the org will add new members to the executive and board committees; these people will not be governors, but will have a say in membership and governance. The goal is to bring in new voices with different POVs. Either of these moves — or both — can happen March 15.

According to bylaws, any restructuring of the board must be voted on by entire membership — or by the board, if they’re given notice 10 days in advance of the vote. So the addition of three governors can be voted on next Tuesday, assuming the governors were notified in advance.

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The third proposal involves admission rules for new members, and that’s more complicated. Currently, each of the 17 branches sets its own criteria for new members. In most cases, the rules specify the number of recent films as well as billing in credits, among other criteria; many in the industry say that those rules are no longer realistic as the film landscape changes. The branches would need to weigh in before any board vote.

The Academy wants to make good on their vow to double the number of women and minorities by 2020. The issue of inclusion/diversity is not going away, and the Acad will continue to make moves on many fronts in the next few years. Hollywood investors, agencies and studios are the source of the imbalance in the film world, but as Boone Isaacs said in January, “The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up.”

Meanwhile, AMPAS and the board need to deal with damage control, both internally and externally. On Jan. 21, the board voted to shift some members to emeritus positions — i.e., they will retain membership, but without voting privileges. It will affect only a few hundred of the 6,261 current voters, but many members were vocal in their complaints that the Academy acted too quickly and that members should have been consulted.

Academy defenders say these changes had been discussed for a long time, and so were not undertaken hastily. (They also point out that elected government officials consistently vote on issues without consulting constituents, and that a poll of 6,000-plus members on every issue is time-consuming, and the Academy was under the gun in January.)

The internal criticism gave AMPAS more bad PR, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time, after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and the threatened boycott of the ceremonies by a few celebs.

Both critics and defenders within the Academy agree that another town hall meeting is a good idea, to make sure concerns are heard and complaints addressed. The only town hall so far occurred May 4, 2013, at the Acad’s Beverly Hills headquarters, which was linked to gatherings in New York and the Bay Area.

The voting-rights issue comes down to a fundamental question: Is AMPAS an honor society for people with years of experience, or is it an organization that reflects the current film industry? If it’s the former, members would have voting rights for life and most members say with pride that the key element of membership is the right to vote (as well as the perk of receiving a supply of screeners).

On the other hand, many want the Academy to reflect world cinema, with an appropriate mixture of races, genders and cultures. This group thinks that if the Academy voters get more in sync with the world population, it will keep the Academy from becoming irrelevant, and the Oscar nominations will be less esoteric. They also hope that a policy of inclusion will set a positive example for the Hollywood industry, which does not reflect that broad range.

As for changes to the Oscar show in the wake of the 88th annual ceremony, the March 15 meet will no doubt include post-mortem discussions among board members. But traditionally, the Acad has several committees to address Oscarcast concerns; they will report to the board in June, when the board can decide whether or not to make changes.

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  1. scottwil says:

    I prefer 5 Best Picture nominees. “When you honor everyone, you honor no one.” If you can’t make the Top 5, how can you make the Top 1 ?

  2. TheBigBangof20thCenturyPopCulture says:

    While PC minorities are arguing over dreck awards for showbiz generation suck, quality is past tense and there is no diversity of content. Just superhero tentpoles, rom-coms and dystopian epics for millennials.

  3. Murica! says:

    More diversity, or just more black people? Diversity doesn’t equal more black people! What about asians, arabic or hispanic people? Apparently they aren’t good enough. All of this crap because a few black people can’t accept that there weren’t any black nominees. You have to earn a nomination based on your performance and not based on the color of your skin!

  4. Chelsea says:

    Sooooo, some actors skin color is more important than talent? Affirmative Action at it’s finest!

  5. Mark Burchard says:

    I believe the Academy is totally unaware of another group of filmmakers that have been totally ignored and that the wagons are circling and preparing for war. On the average feature film there are 12 categories that it can be nominated or 12 people that can pick up a statute. May I ask respectfully why the other 200 hundred people that make a feature film are, when it comes to OSCAR, all but ignored. I’m not talking about categories that run from here to tomorrow. Just an official nod is all that is required. The Emmys have solved this problem by offering certificates to anyone on the crawl of a BEST program. I called the Academy after Silence of the Lambs won best picture and asked if they offered a similar Item. I believe I spoke to someone in Public relations. I was put down with a ‘Who the hell do you think you are?” I hung up and I was terribly embarrassed. Need I say more? 95% of filmmakers are ignored by the Academy. For Shame! The Crews are filmmakers too!
    Mark Burchard

  6. Sonny says:

    People (commenters) need to get a grip. The Academy is going to make some changes that may be overdue, but the change is going to be gradual. Not all WHITE and not all BLACK, as some may think, but change it will. My hope is that the change enhances the eventual choices, and the dignity and prestige of the organization is retained. If not, it will self destruct, but I remain optimistic.

  7. cadavra says:

    None of this is gonna mean a thing unless the studios step up their game, which is not going to happen as long as quality films with minority casts continue to flop. The most recent example is the excellent RACE. As a matter of fact, the day I went to see it–in Culver City–there were around 20 other people in the audience…all of them also white. So if minority audiences themselves fail to support a “black” film, how are things ever going to change?

  8. anthony says:

    Does Machiavellian Boone realize that diversity means more than just black people right? “Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.”– “Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.”– “When one with honeyed words but evil mind persuades the mob, great woes befall the Academy.”—Belongs to Machiavellian Cheryl Boone Isaacs’s

  9. George says:

    You can actually have diversity without excluding. People in the film industry know how fickle the industry is, so I would think minorities would fight for this right as well. changing the discrimination to another group is still discrimination

  10. Anonymous says:

    This is progress. There is no reason that honoring excellence and being inclusive of the current film industry can’t be done at the same time. The Academy should be an honor society for people who demonstrate EXCELLENCE in their given craft regardless of race, gender, age (whether that be young or told), sex, sexual preference or handicap. Number of years of experience or credits don’t necessarily reflect someone’s talent or education, it reflects how old they are and how many opportunities they’ve had. Orson Welles wouldn’t have had enough credits to join when he made “Citizen Kane.” Did that make him any less of a genius? Barbara Streisand was allowed to join AMPAS before she had one credit — and that worked out pretty good for her! Excellence should be the only criteria, with an eye towards inclusiveness and not elite country club exclusion (the “sorority” hazing that Chris Rock mentioned). The two things are not mutually exclusive.

    • clever pr says:

      You’re absolutely right but Boone Isaac’s is trying to sell these controversial new rules by creating a new narrative; that “honoring excellence” and “reflecting diversity” are mutually exclusive. It’s classic PR that presents an ‘either or’ scenario designed to convince us there is a clash of purposes where there is none. But in the end, she knows that there are only two ways to increase the percentage of minorities in the Academy. One is to add them to the roster. The other is to throw whites off of it. There are no organizations or hashtags to defend old white people so the discrimination will go unnoticed. She knows that too.

  11. oj says:

    more diversity only means more Asian jokes at the Oscars

  12. Jimmy Green says:

    The academy has lost all credibility. Tokenism to the max! Quality doesn’t matter, only the director’s color and Spike (chief token) Lee’s approval.

  13. Sexracist says:

    There’s nothing more arrogantly racist than the assumption that more minority voters will produce more minority nominees. Because black people only vote for black people, just like white people only vote for white people. Right?

  14. Nanny Mo says:

    The Academy needs to throw this board out before more racist crap further cheapens this once prestigious award.

  15. Hollywood Mark says:

    Boone was an affirmative action hire that blew up in the Academy’s face after the White House Valerie Jarret and Michelle Obama got their PC hooks into this woman a year and a half ago.

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